Hennepin County, Minn. – Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told a group of activists that he doesn’t have the evidence to file charges against the Minneapolis police officer in the shooting death of Justine Damond.
Freeman blamed investigators for not doing their jobs in the investigation of whether Officer Mohamed Noor was justified is shooting Damond.
“I’ve got to have the evidence, and I don’t have it yet … Let me just say it’s not my fault. So if it isn’t my fault, who didn’t do their job? Investigators. They don’t work for me. They haven’t done their job,” Freeman said, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune . Freeman’s comments were in a video posted on the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar Facebook page.
Freeman failed to explain what investigators actually failed to do. The case hinges on Freeman being able to prove that Officer Noor acted unreasonably, which is not something that’s decided by investigators.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension conducted a full investigation and turned over the case to Freeman for charging consideration on Sept. 12.
Damond’s shooting made national headlines.
According to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Officer Matthew Harrity, Officer Noor’s partner, said that the officers were startled by a loud sound and immediately afterwards Justine Damond approached the driver’s door. Officer Noor then shot Damond through the open driver’s window.
Freeman then announced that he would personally be making the charging decision rather than sending the case to a grand jury.
A police union took issue to Freeman’s response to a question at a prior community forum when a citizen asked him why Officer Noor wasn’t sitting in jail as a civilian would be after a deadly shooting. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Freeman said he couldn’t answer the question because he hadn’t thought about it that way.
Freeman knows, or should know, that the statement claiming that a non-officer would be in jail is not true, because that’s not how the courts work. Even if a non-officer was arrested on scene, they would have been released if they weren’t charged.
Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, said in a column that ran in the Star-Tribune that Freeman’s response was concerning.
“For Freeman to say he cannot answer this question because he has not thought about it that way is concerning, because it shows he is not familiar with the fair treatment of either police or civilians,” Kroll wrote.
“The reality is that when any investigation goes on past the first 36 to 48 hours, people are not held in jail until a charging decision is made. After that decision, all citizens are entitled to bail or release on conditions.”
Kroll was also upset that Freeman told people at the meeting that the jury was wrong when it acquitted Officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting of Philando Castile.
“That jury was wrong,” Freeman said while also saying Officer Yanez was a good cop who panicked, according to the newspaper.
Kroll said those comments were “simply out of place and requires an open and public apology. The law enforcement community must stand up and confront this sentiment, because it shows that Freeman has prejudged Noor’s case based on his myopic and uninformed opinion of the Yanez case. Was Freeman ever in that courtroom? Did he hear any of that evidence?”
Freeman said he would make a decision to charge Noor or not by the end of the year. Officer Noor had declined to speak with investigators.
Freeman explained why it was taking so long for him to make a decision.
“I have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the moment he shot the gun he feared for his life, and he used force because he thought he was gonna be killed,” he said in the video. “But he won’t answer my questions … I can’t talk to her because she’s gone, and the other cop just gave us (expletive). So guess what, I’ve gotta figure out angles of the shot, gun residues, reckless use of force experts…”
Because it’s already clear that Officer Noor shot Damond through the open driver’s window, it’s not clear why shot angles and gun residue is relevant.
“But if you look at this, here’s a nice lady who hears something bad outside, she calls the cops, they don’t come, she calls again, they drive up in her alley, and she comes out in her jammies and she’s killed by a cop,” Freeman continued. “Sounds easy doesn’t it? Can I prove that the cop shot her? I could have done that the first day.”